When I was 10 years old, all my friends were getting braces except for me. I wanted to be just like my friends. I didn’t want to stand out in any way. I remember praying to God that I would get braces like my friends. I prayed that I could be just like them. I wished on shooting stars and birthday candles. I wanted braces and I wanted them badly. Even my big brother, Jason, had braces. Then by June of 1995, I got head gear and braces. My wishes were coming true. Wishes that I would learn to regret as those braces became my biggest source of pain for the next two and half years. I learned to hate my braces. They ripped up my mouth, created sores under my tongue, and my orthodontist I swore was the devil incarnate. But I was just like my friends. I believed that it was God who made my wishes come true. In reality, over 90% of my graduating class had braces at that time. It was really only a matter of time. I believed that faith in God was based in whether or not my prayers and hoping were answered as I asked them to be. I was getting wishing and hope confused in my mind.
What’s the difference between hope and wishing? For many people these two words are synonyms. Many believe that the two words really mean much of the same thing. In reality, though, these two words are very different. A wish is what you make when blowing the candles out on a birthday cake, when you see a shooting star, when you throw a penny into a wishing well. A wish does not withstand pain, suffering, and challenges from the experiences of life. Wishes can be broken down and often change with time. Whereas wishes often are frivolous, not well thought out, and cause regret. Hope. Hope is alive. It is grounded much deeper than a wish. It is grounded in faith in the resurrected Christ. It is grounded in God. Hope is not specific. It is based in love, the message of Christ and it lives through the struggles, through the experiences that challenge our very foundations.
I think sometimes when we pray, we get God confused with a wishing well. Sometimes our prayers are primarily about asking God for what we want, instead of asking God to make the love of Christ come alive through our actions. It is easy to become jaded by the troubles of this world, by the types of despair that we experience as human beings. There are several things that can cause us to despair and lose sight of the hope of the resurrection: medical problems, sinful actions, misplaced attentions, general confusion, or following the actions of the wrong peoples. Troublesome life events can make us question and leave us wondering about the presence of God. This is natural and we all go through these times when we feel the hope of resurrection fading slowly into the background of life.
Today’s scriptures speak of new life; a new life where we walk together in the light of the Lord. The 23rd Psalm speaks of God’s presence through the challenges of life and promises of a coming restfulness in the green pastures of God’s house. Our New Testament also speaks of New Life. Tabitha (also known as Dorcas) has died and people seek new life for her at the hands of the Apostles. This resurrection was not only a reminder of Christ’s resurrection but also metaphorically represents the new life we all receive. The idea is that we all pass away from the life we had before we found faith and are then reborn into a new life in Christ Jesus. It is the hope that is afforded to all peoples that through Christ we are able to attain a new life evident in our actions. Tabitha carried a love for the poor in her heart and God used that love to bring the message of Christ to all those in that town.
The people prayed and wished that she would soon heal from her illness but she didn’t. God had other plans. She may have died from the physical illness that plagued her body, but she also died to a life without the Holy Spirit and was reborn into a life lived for the Holy, a life that specifically used the love of Christ to bring faith to a hurting people. She was going to be the hope of a better future in Christ. Her love and compassion for others was going to help people to understand God in a new way. She was helping to bring peace to a country torn by violence and hate. She was reminding people of the love of God.
The hope that the early Christians needed is still the same hope that we all long for today. We long for the day when the love and peace of Christ will become the rule of the land and not the violence of humanity. Our actions of love are the indicators that we have accepted the new life offered to us with the resurrection of Christ. We accepted the call to a new way of living when we signed our names onto membership in Christianity. As such, this means we are called to spread the hope of peace, compassion, and care to all peoples. We are called to have the actions of our life match the theology that we place our hope and faith in. Remember what the book of Acts shared with us today, “Then calling the Saints and the widows, he showed her to be alive. This became known throughout Joppa, and many believed in the Lord”. Our actions will bring others to faith. Our actions will inspire others to live the life of love and hope. Our actions will help others to understand where our real hope resides and the difference between wishes and true peace and love, between wishes and true satisfaction and rest in life. So let us go forth ready to work for the message Christ, ready to spread the compassion and care of the God of love, and to help people to gain a glimpse of the peaceful still waters promised to all of us in Psalm 23. Remember the difference between a wish and hope and allow for the resurrection and new life we see in the story of Tabitha to be our reminder to cling to the hope of Christ and to allow it to transform our lives. RC Sproul wrote this, “Hope is called the anchor of the soul (Hebrews 6:19), because it gives stability to the Christian life. But hope is not simply a ‘wish’ (I wish that such-and-such would take place); rather, it is that which latches on to the certainty of the promises of the future that God has made.”
 Stewart, Sid. Hope for the Christian. Christian Bible Studies. Pg 1
 Acts 9: 41-42, NRSV.
 Robert Charles Sproul, American Theologian, 20th century.
(Based on Psalm 23 and Acts 9:36-43)